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French, 'A Domestic Scene', late 1770s

Key facts
Full title A Domestic Scene
Artist French
Date made late 1770s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 37.5 × 48.3 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2620
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Domestic Scene

Scenes of mothers and children were fashionable in eighteenth-century France, much encouraged by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who advocated a ‘natural’ approach to child-rearing.

A young mother is sitting in a beam of light at a table with three of her infants wriggling on her lap. An older child is seated at the table, while another plays in the shadows on the floor and a baby’s cradle is rocked by an old woman. The young servant’s headdress and the straw-covered flask of wine on the table suggest that the artist was in or knew Italy. They were clearly familiar with Greuze’s painting The Well-Beloved Mother (private collection, Madrid) as the group of the mother and children is very similar.

We do not know who painted this picture. Although Jean-Honoré Fragonard produced sketchy interior scenes with working women during his first stay in Italy in 1756–61, the brushwork does not resemble his extremely fluid way of painting.

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